Marangu conference: Lutheran church unity in Africa strengthens advocacy for justice and peace

LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge delivers his presentation during the Marangu anniversary conference on 20 May 2015. LWF/Tsion Alemayehu
LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge delivers his presentation during the Marangu anniversary conference on 20 May 2015. LWF/Tsion Alemayehu

General Secretary Junge encourages churches to build on Marangu uniqueness

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge has called on African Lutheran churches to use their sense of “togetherness and strength” to advocate for justice, peace and reconciliation in the continent.

Speaking on 20 May at a gathering to celebrate the first meeting of all-Africa Lutherans in Marangu, Tanzania, 60 years ago, Junge said the conviction that “being together means being stronger” was the impulse for the historic gathering in 1955, in Marangu.

He expressed his growing respect for the pioneer Lutheran church leaders who defied the strain and burdens of pre-independence Africa to make Marangu the birth place of “a unique togetherness” of Lutheran churches on the continent.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) is hosting the 20-24 May Marangu anniversary meeting, taking place in the context of the Africa Lutheran Church Leadership Conference (ALCLC). Participants include some 200 delegates from the 31 LWF member churches in Africa and global Lutheran leaders, representatives of mission partners and invited ecumenical guests.

Junge’s address included reflections on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the LWF 12th Assembly in 2017 under the theme “Liberated by God’s Grace.” The ALCLC plenary and group deliberations focus on “Being a reforming church in a changing African context.” Participants will discuss the significance of the assembly sub-themes - “creation, salvation and human beings are not for sale” for the mission of the Lutheran church in Africa today.

In his address, the general secretary reminded the church delegates of the fundamental understanding of Lutheran identity – justification by faith alone - “not because of who we are and what we do but because of who God is and what God does.” He urged the African churches to remain grounded in “Christ, scripture and faith alone” and the common values of compassion, inclusion, dignity, commitment, respect, participation and diversity as they contribute to the global Lutheran communion.

On salvation, Junge said there is a general opinion that there is something wrong with the notion of “prosperity gospel.” He encouraged Lutheran churches to make a distinction between the concept of “prosperity” and “life in abundance” as explained in the Gospel of John. The latter emphasizes solidarity and the dignity of every human being including those who are poor, sick and marginalized.

He elaborated on “human beings are not for sale” by drawing attention to the increasing violence against women not only in Africa but in other parts of the world. “Sexual violence, rape, customary land and property disinheritance. Nothing justifies such suffering,” Junge said. “What is the culture that the gospel wants us to promote when it comes to the question of violence against women?” he asked.

On creation, Junge said African Lutherans are called to be a prophetic church in a context in which communal land ownership is threatened by land grabbing, extractive mining industry and the impact of climate change.

He commended the African Lutherans for their collaboration with other churches and faith communities on the continent. However, he called for more attention to interreligious tension in the face of new dimensions of violence that is perpetuated in the name of religion. “We should not be derailed in our interfaith efforts,” Junge said. “Let us not allow extremism to claim the space to define what faith and religion is all about.”

Connecting the Marangu meeting today to the 1955 founding, Junge paid tribute to former LWF President Bishop Dr Josiah M. Kibira for his vision, affirming the unique contribution and interdependence of every LWF member church. He encouraged churches to avoid situations of competition and exclusion and instead relate to each other in a spirit of mutual support.

Discussions in plenary and group sessions in the coming days will focus on stewardship of creation, faith and public responsibility, and preparations for the 2017 LWF Twelfth Assembly to be hosted by the Lutheran churches in Namibia.The ALCLC concludes with a eucharistic anniversary closing worship on Pentecost Sunday in Marangu.
 

Read the report Journeying Together: LWF communion in Africa 1955-2015 detailing 60 years of Lutheran work in Africa
 

Find out more about Marangu 2015